Local History Group

June 2014 Newsletter

New Picture (61)Wollaton Dovecote Museum re-opened to the public this year on Sunday 11th May with an exhibition dedicated to the start of WW1 and the local men who fought for their country. U3A Local History Group visited the Museum on Wednesday 21 May and also had a tour of Wollaton Village and of St Leonard’s Church. Angela Gilbert and Jean Dinsdale welcomed our group of a dozen and gave us a fascinating talk on the Dovecote since it was built for Sir Francis Willoughby in 1565 (some reports say 1572) to house 4000 pigeons as a source of fresh meat for the winter. In those days the droppings were used to make saltpetre, a preservative for food, but it was also used in the manufacture of gun powder. For this reason monarchs normally restricted the building of dovecotes but Queen Elizabeth encouraged well trusted families to build them because of the growing threat of invasion by Philip of Spain. Clever lady. After our visit to the Museum, Chris Walton took our party on a guided walk around the village showing us the ‘Square’, the pump, the piggery, the old Rectory, the Russell School, etc, eventually New Picture (62)delivering us to St Leonard’s Church at 3.00pm. We had a very informative tour of the Church, including the rare opportunity afforded by the very pleasant weather, to walk right around to the tower, where we also met the gardener who single- handedly keeps the beautiful garden in good order. Our guide pointed out how well-preserved the slate gravestones are in comparison to those made of stone. One of the stone crosses had the name Cranen Lee who died in 1810. It was an unusual New Picture (63)style and an unusual name. Finally we had a splendid high tea of sandwiches on home-made bread, savoury and fruit scones, and several varieties of home-made cakes, giving a delicious end to an absolutely delightful visit. Our next visit is on Wednesday 18 June, a guided tour of some of the Historic Buildings on the University Campus.


March 2014 Newsletter

Beeston U3A Local History Group meets at 1.30pm on the third Wednesday of every month in the Guild Room at CRMC to learn about and discuss the history of our locality. Our next meeting will be on 19th March, when Gill Morrall will give a talk entitled “Toton Revisited”, which incidentally is the title of her most recent book.

In April Gareth Davies will tell us about the archaeological discoveries made along the route of the tram works, and in May we have a visit to The Wollaton Dovecote Museum. We have another visit planned for July, when we will have a guided tour of the historic buildings on the University Campus.

Our meetings are friendly and interactive – most speakers welcome questions during their talks, and this ensures well-informed and often nostalgic discussion. We are continually growing and we still have room for interested and interesting new members.

Contact Alan Windsor alanwindsor@ntlworld.com


December 2013 Newsletter

New members are always welcome to the Local History Group which meets on the 3rd Wednesday of each month at CRMC commencing 1.30 pm. Further details can be obtained from Collette Godfrey who will be running our stand at the monthly U3A meeting (1st Thursday in month) or from the Group Leader, Alan Windsor (alanwindsor@ntlworld.com).


September 2013 Newsletter

Approximately twenty members assembled in the Old Market Square before beginning their tour of the Council House which was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1929. The City Architect, Cecil Howitt, was given the task of designing the building which he decided would age more gracefully if built in a classical style. However, the interior was built in the Art Deco style with concealed lighting and an Italian marble staircase topped by the Great Dome which houses the Little John chiming clock. The sculpture on the front of the building was modelled mainly by Joseph Else, Principal of the Nottingham School of Art (1923-1939) including the pediment over the building and the now famous lions. It is a Grade II listed building now used as a Registry Office, Coroners Court and for Civic Receptions.

In July, Tim Preston gave a talk on the history of Wollaton Hall and park, using wonderful transparencies of photos taken by his wife over a period of 30 years. These showed details of the architecture and embellishments of the building and the park. Many of us were amazed to see a photo of a massive oak tree rivalling Major Oak in size and age that is just inside the Derby Road gates.

18th September – Stanton at War – Steve Flinders.
16th October – East Midlands during WW1 – Helen Bates
20th November – The Charlton Family & Chilwell – Peter Robinson

New members are always welcome to the Local History Group which meets on the 3rd Wednesday of each month at CRMC commencing 1.30pm. Further details can be obtained from Collette Godfrey who will be running our stand at the monthly U3A meeting (1st Thursday in month) or from the Group Leader, Alan Windsor (alanwindsor@ntlworld.com).


June 2013 Newsletter

Membership of the group continues to grow and we have been privileged to have some interesting speakers since the beginning of the year starting with Charlotte McCarthy, an Archivist at the Boots Company, who gave a potted history of the Company from its beginnings in 1849 when John Boot opened the British & American Botanic Establishment in Nottingham. Following John’s death his widow and his son, Jesse, took control of the Company and within 25 years the number of stores had risen to 250. Boots became a major employer in the Nottingham area following the opening of the Beeston site in the late 1920’s. Jesse Boot was also known as a great philanthropist and a major benefactor to the people of Nottingham.

In February we welcomed Peter Robinson who in 2001 moved from Scotland to his wife’s childhood home in Chilwell. Several years later when working in the garden he discovered what turned out to be the foundations of Chilwell Hall. The Hall, which had stood on the site for nearly 700 years and had been one of the largest buildings in the vicinity, was demolished in the 1930’s and disappeared from local history. In 2005 the Trent and Peak Archaeology unit were invited to carry out a survey of the site; this was followed by the Grantham Archaeological Society excavating the site to reveal more of the Halls history.

In April Mo Cooper of St Ann’s Heritage Allotments gave a talk and slide show on the history of the site which has recently been listed with a Grade 2* by English Heritage. The site, which is the largest area of Victorian detached town gardens in the world, was originally owned by local businessmen as a weekend retreat for themselves and their families and some of the Victorian buildings still remain. Much of the 75 acre site is now used by city residents to grown their own vegetables.

In May a hardy group of members braved the elements to visit Attenborough Nature Reserve where we learnt about the history of the Reserve from its inception in 1966. This was followed by a walk and talk around the area trying to spot the summer visitors (the feathered kind) who were also keeping a low profile on such a wet and windy day.

Wednesday, 19th June: guided tour of the Nottingham Council House. Meet outside at 1.20 for a 1.30 start. Further details from Gill Morral gill.morral@ntlworld.com or 0115 9171831.
Wednesday, 17th July: talk on Wollaton Hall & Park. 1.30pm at CRMC. NO MEETING IN AUGUST.
Wednesday, 18th September: Stanton at War – Steve Flinders. 1.30pm at CRMC.


Gill Morral writes:

The Local History Group has an outing on Wednesday 19 June to Nottingham Council House. We will meet at 1.20pm ready for the guide to meet us at 1.30pm in the foyer. Gill Morral will wait on the Council House steps until 1.30pm wearing her U3A group leaders badge (International folk dancing). The tour will last approximately 2 hours.

If there is anyone on the list who cannot come Gill would appreciate notification of this and her telephone number is 917 1831.


The Group meets at the CRMC on the third Wednesday of each month at 1.30pm. During the summer months we try to arrange visits to local places of interest. There is an annual (September – August) membership fee of £10.00 to cover the cost of speakers, and a charge of £1.50 each month towards the cost of the room. Visitors are welcome for a maximum of two meetings at a cost of £2.00. For further information contact the Group Leader, Alan Windsor. 9221976. Email: alanwindsor@ntlworld.com

Dates for your Diary


16th January THE BOOTS COMPANY Speaker Charlotte McCarthy

20th February CHILWELL HALL & EXCAVATION 2005-2011 Speaker Peter Robinson

20th March BRAMCOTE HALL Speaker Derek Read




17TH July WOLLATON HALL & PARK Speaker T Preston


18TH September STANTON AT WAR Speaker Steve Flinders

16th October EAST MIDLANDS DURING WW1 Speaker Helen Bates [TO BE CONFIRMED]

20th November THE CHARLTON FAMILY AND CHILWELL Speaker Peter Robinson

18th December CHRISTMAS SOCIAL EVENT Group to Organise


December 2012 Newsletter

SEPTEMBER – The Chilwell Ghost – Alan Dance

The group was pleased to welcome local writer and historian, Alan Dance, to the meeting who regaled us with the legend of the Chilwell Ghost. Alan’s interest in the Ghost went back to his childhood in Chilwell when he would hear tales of the Ghost from villagers. The story was so engrained in local folklore that reference to the Ghost would occasionally appear in local newspaper articles and books of local interest. However, it wasn’t until the end of the 20th century that Alan was able to research the Ghost in painstaking detail and the story of that investigation was the basis of his most interesting talk. For those who missed the talk a book entitled “The Chilwell Ghost – A New Investigation” is available from the library or local bookshops.

OCTOBER – Barton Ferry – Gill Morrall

Gill Morrall, a member of the U3A Local History Group and Archivist at Beeston History Group, treated us to a trip down memory lane when she addressed the October meeting on the subject of Barton Ferry. The ferry, which is known to have been there since before 1774, was a popular summer treat for families from Attenborough and the surrounding area to cross the river to Barton-in-Fabis, popular because of its many tea houses. Of course the ferry was also a necessity for villagers from Barton to cross the river for work and school but ceased to operate in the early 1960’s when other modes of transport became more readily available. Gill supplemented her talk with a pictorial display of the ferry in its heydays.

NOVEMBER – a Walk through Edwardian Beeston – Graham Hopcroft
Local historian and deltiologist, Graham Hopcroft, was our guest at the November meeting. With the aid of his extensive collection of local postcards Graham took us all on a leisurely stroll through Edwardian Beeston starting at Chilwell Road, through Post Office Square and the busy shopping route to Cut Through Lane and finally, exhausted, we watched families taking steamboat rides on the River Trent at Beeston. Graham sprinkled the route with anecdotes of local history even pointing out one or two relations on the way.


September 2012 Newsletter

JUNE – WALK & TALK (University of Nottingham, JUBILEE CAMPUS) – Christine Ward

The Local History Group was welcomed to Jubilee Campus by Christine Ward, a group member and an official guide for the Friends of University Park. It was a warm, sunny afternoon and the group were able to take a leisurely stroll around the award winning, environmentally friendly campus which now covers an area of 65 acres and is home to postgraduate students from around the globe. The campus was built on the former Raleigh site and boasts a series of lakes which, as well as being home to a variety of wildlife, provides storm water attenuation and cooling for the buildings.


Mrs Jean Dinsdale welcomed the group to The Dovecote and gave us a brief history of the building which was built in 1572 by the Willoughby family and, along with Wollaton Hall and Park, was part of their estate up until 1925. The two-storey Elizabethan dovecote has 1180 nesting sites built into its walls with a capacity for 4500 birds. For the last 20 years it has been run as a museum housing an exhibition of photographs and memoirs of Wollaton folk and a parlour depicting life in the 20th century. The group then moved on to St Leonards Church where we were welcomed by Mr Malcolm Stacey. Mr Stacey gave us a talk on the history of the medieval parish church with its memorials to the Willoughby family and Robert Smythson, the Elizabethan architect of Wollaton Hall. The Church’s most historic treasure is the Wollaton Antiphonal, a magnificent and rare medieval service book, dating from the first half of the 15th century. Originally made for Sir Thomas Chaworth of Wiverton Hall, Nottinghamshire, it was bought for he use of Wollaton Parish Church in 1460. Since 1974 the Antiphonal has been in the care of the University of Nottingham who have recently installed a virtual antiphonal (a digital copy using ‘Turning the Pages’ software) for the use of the congregation and visitors to the Church.


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